Bland Keeps His Job -- for Now

Article excerpt

Steve Bland's days as CEO of the Port Authority of Allegheny County appear to be numbered as a result of pressure from County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, sources said.

Bland's six-year tenure came close to ending Friday morning, but Port Authority Chairman John A. Brooks said he decided to postpone the board's scheduled meeting for a week.

"I wanted to prolong this so we could come to a proper resolution," Brooks said, declining to comment further.

Brooks, who has praised Bland's work often, said board members agreed to the postponement.

An authority staffer announced the delay to a crowded boardroom 25 minutes after the meeting was scheduled to start. Board members and Bland never appeared publicly.

Board members also agreed not to comment publicly on the issue, Brooks said.

Neither Fitzgerald nor Bland returned calls.

Sources said Fitzgerald has lined up enough members of the nine- person board to fire Bland if he doesn't resign.

Bland could get at least $92,500 if he's ousted, thanks to a three-year contract that took effect June 12, 2011. The contract allows the Port Authority to terminate the agreement at any time as long as Bland receives about half of his annual salary. Bland earns $185,000 a year.

Port Authority operates independently of the county, but the county executive appoints board members and signs off on county funding. That gives the county's top elected official considerable clout.

Fitzgerald has appointed four people to the board since taking office a year ago. The five other members are holdovers.

Bland would become at least the 12th high-ranking official from a county department or county-related agency to resign or be fired since Fitzgerald took office.

On Thursday night, some board members expressed mixed emotions on Bland's possible exit.

"It's a real dilemma for me. I'm not sure how I would vote. Steve has done a hell of a job in the six years he's been here, but I was appointed by the county executive and county council, so I also have a responsibility to make a decision based on that, as far as loyalty goes," board member John Tague said. …